The Prioritization of Life-Saving Resources in a Pandemic Surge Crisis

October 1, 2020
Edition: Fall 2020
Volume: 35
Issue: 2
Article: 1

Table of Contents


The COVID-19 pandemic has engendered a national discussion regarding scarce life-saving medical resources. These discussions often turn on allocation, reconfiguration, and reallocation of resources during the surge crisis of a declared emergency. Protocols to address these issues are being widely promulgated. From the standpoint of biomedical ethics, the principal concerns in these discussions should center on duty, justification, legality, and underlying moral standards. In this article the author explores general concepts of prioritization and crisis standards of care, physician duties and the conflict of those duties, the problematic nature of reallocation, and legitimate responses to the extreme absolute scarcity of surge crisis.

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About the Authors

Affiliation: Past-Chair, Institutional Ethics Committee, Willis-Knighton Health System; Physician, Willis-Knighton Cardiology. M.D., Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, 1982.